Had one of those “mom” experiences this weekend… the ones that bring on wistful tears and floods of memories.   Jamie, Joseffa and I went to Madison for the spring band concert.  This time, Drew wasn’t on the stage playing his trombone.  He was sitting next to us in the audience.

This semester brought the difficult but very “grown up” decision to drop band after three and a half years of college band, four years of high school band, three years of middle school band and a year in elementary. It was too hard to keep up while going to school full time with a heavy course load, working 20 hours a week and growing involvement in a professional computer-science fraternity.  Priorities change; we outgrow activities. That doesn’t make the letting go any less painful or easier.  What we choose to do plays a giant role in how we see ourselves, how we define ourselves, how we express our personhood.

As the band began the first notes of “On, Wisconsin,” I was overcome. Unexpected tears streamed down my face.  I thought, Drew’s time is nearly done here.  He is becoming such a wonderful young man.  He’s moving on and growing.  And that’s wonderful.  BUT, the next exciting parts of his life won’t see us sitting in the audience applauding.  He will work at his internship this summer, finish his last year of school, get that first job, meet new people…  We will be on the sidelines, further and further removed.  As it should be.

We did a great job parenting this beautiful gift that came into our lives in September of 1989.  We have been preparing him for just this time, and, looking back, I can see how he has been preparing us as well.  I clearly remember the day he learned to ride a bike, and I watched him ride away from me in our alley.  I recall how our little fifth grader turned into a confident middle schooler, how he strode down those halls at Sandburg with such confidence.  He plotted his courses in high school, found a great group of friends, drove off in his beater car to his lifeguard job.  His next adventures were to be in Madison.  Seems like just a few days ago that we left him at his dorm as a freshman, and I once again saw his back as he walked away from us into new challenges.

Band has been such a big part of his college life.  He has worked so hard and achieved the goals he has set for himself.  He made the band as a freshman, but was a “sweater,” one who hadn’t yet earned a uniform. He was on the sidelines and toted a backpack of supplies for other members.  He was determined to earn his uniform at some point, and he did, right before the game Jamie and I had planned to see.  He continued to work hard and first earned a half spot, marching in just the half time show.  Still not content, he pushed himself to get a full spot, which includes the difficult pre-game run-on.  And when he was in danger of losing that spot for the Rose Bowl, he mustered his courage to talk to the intimidating director and stand up for himself.   He was reinstated, and the director was impressed by his initiative.

Yesterday, we dropped him off again before we left to return to our own, separate lives back home.  And again he walked away from me, up the driveway to his house.  I’ve gotten used to seeing him from that angle, but it doesn’t make the goodbyes any easier.  What does make it easier, though, is remembering that as he is walking away from us, he is walking toward his dreams.